Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As we enter into the month of October, of the year 2017, we are reminded of Martin Luther’s actions 500 years ago that made great change that we still benefit from today.
In 1517, while serving as a monk in Germany, Martin Luther took a stand within the Roman Catholic Church and presented a list of 95 Theses in which he highlighted things the church, under the leadership of the pope, was doing that Luther believed was going against the teachings of Jesus. His main focus was the role of the pope and the use of indulgences. He focused here not so that he would breakup the church or somehow fracture it; he simply wanted the Catholic Church to repent and turn back towards God.
At that time, the church was making money off of the grief and fear of the people. When a loved one died, there was great guilt around whether or not they made it into heaven or if they were stuck in purgatory until they repaid the debt accrued through sin. People were buying indulgences from the church in order to ensure they and their loved ones were able to go onto heaven without a hitch! Instead of relying on God’s acts of love and forgiveness through the cross of Jesus Christ, or “clinging to the cross,” people were clinging to the words of the pope and a piece of paper! Luther saw this as contradictory to Jesus’ message of forgiveness and grace in response to sin, and so he called it out.
The 95 Theses made quite a commotion in the world! However, Luther’s work did not stop there. He continued to write pamphlets, made possible by the leading technology of the time (the printing press), where he called out other areas of practice within the Catholic Church in order to motivate the people to stand up against the church instead of blindly following the pope’s directions.
Luther’s writing continued when he compiled the Large Catechism, meant to instruct priests in order that they may teach their congregations better, and the Small Catechism, meant for the head of a household to teach his wife and children. Each of these contain the essential information for understanding God’s love and grace as a gift freely given, as opposed to something that we earn. With each teaching and reading, Luther encourages clinging to the cross! Luther knew that our freedom from sin and guilt is possible only through God’s gift of love and forgiveness as shown in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
These writings and their following got Luther into some trouble with the kings and princes of his time who still showed allegiance to the Catholic Church, and so Luther went into hiding in Wittenberg, which had leaders who were resisting the ways of the Catholic Church. While being sequestered, Luther began to translate the Greek and Hebrew scriptures of the Bible into the language of his people: German! With the Bible in the language of the people, they no longer needed to rely on someone else to tell them the Word of God; they could read it for themselves! Luther saw the Word of God as part of God’s free gift of love and forgiveness, and so no one should be kept from reading it for themselves.
Meanwhile, with Luther in hiding, Luther’s follower Philip Melanchthon was the one to represent Luther and his allies. Melanchthon was questioned and threatened by the world leaders who were still clinging to the ways of the Catholic Church. He went on to write confessional documents that explained, in great detail the understanding of God’s love and forgiveness as a gift we cannot earn and how this idea was REFORMing the practices and actions of followers of Christ.
This wave of Reformation rode on for some time and went through ebbs and flows of gaining and losing popularity. Despite these ebbs and flows, Luther’s understanding of God’s unconditional reforming gift of love and forgiveness had made its lasting mark on the world! To this day, this message continues to set us free from our fear and guilt that we have to somehow earn God’s love and grace. God’s love is for you, no matter what.
What are some areas in our lives that we have begun clinging to things other than the cross of Christ?
How is God’s gift of unconditional love and forgiveness reforming us today?
Interested in learning more about some of these documents and the beliefs of Luther? Come to Tuesday evening Bible Study (1st and 3rd Tuesdays of the month at 7 pm) as we read and reflect on Luther’s writings!
Peace in Christ Jesus,
Pastor Lauren Applegate
You are invited to sign up to participate in “Greet the Pastor”! Invite Pastor Lauren into your home so that she can get to know you and your family. Please sign up for a time that is most convenient for you, and when most people who live in your household are available. Contact Pastor at 610-838-0731 to schedule a time.
+ + + + + + +
Hello from your New Jerusalem “Apples” Church council. In an effort to improve communication across the channels of our congregation, we have decided to provide a brief summary of what is happening at our Council monthly meetings. Some of you might not be aware that all are invited to attend Church Council meetings, which are held every second Tuesday of each month at 7:00 p.m. Any questions or concerns should be brought to the meeting or placed in the question box located in the Narthex. Of course, you can always catch up to a current council member and ask them for help as well. As your Council President, I am available by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610-797-8440.
The Council officers for 2017 are:
September 2017 Summary
Church Council has been busy this month. The agenda continues to get longer along with the meetings. Anyway, lots going on as usual, with merger paperwork being gathered for the lawyer, the sale of CLC-LS continues to inch forward and as you see in the bulletin, many activities happening. Please be patient and understanding with each other as we continue to transition and blend as one church. Many beautiful items have come from CLC-LS and hopefully we’ll hear the sounds of the bell choir sometime soon. We heard a report from the CLC-LS endowment committee and know of the potential we’ll have to support our many ministries in the future. As we grow, there will be some administration changes happening when renting space in the church for a function. Please contact the church secretary Kathy Tyrell to obtain the necessary forms.
No questions from the Narthex box this month. Please continue to reach out with any questions or concerns.
Peace be with you,
Bill Young, Council President
October 5, 2017 Letter to the Members of Christ Lutheran Church of Lower Saucon and New Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church
As your Council Presidents, we would like to call a special congregational meeting on October 22, 2017, immediately following our Sunday morning worship service. This meeting is called to vote on the following two items:
1. To approve the current offer of sale with Saucon Community Church (SCC) to purchase CLC-LS’s property: the Bethlehem side (with church building) and the Lower Saucon side (with grove & school house). This agreement is contingent upon the sale of SCC’s property on Main Street. We will have the ability to re-evaluate if the Main Street property is not sold in 6 months.
2. To approve the hiring of required professionals to facilitate the sale of CLC-LS’s property.
Please consider attending this important congregational meeting so we can continue to move forward in our efforts to merge and grow our ministry.
Peace be with you,
Bill Young, NJELC Council President
Marianne Zellner, CLC-LS Council President
+ + + + + + +